Jennifer Sweeney: I give God all the glory!

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“Me! Ex-prostitute? Ex-crack addict? God’s not going to forgive me! He has no purpose for me!” When she first heard the words of promise, Jennifer Sweeney was incredulous, stunned, yet the words stuck in her mind. Over the days that followed in the LA Harbor Light program, she reflected upon them: “God loves you; he has a purpose for your life.”

Then in 1999, not long after entering the Safe Harbor program, Jennifer, 34, responded to the altar call. She remembers: “I was identifying with everything the preacher said. I went up and I cried. They prayed for me; I felt cleansed; I felt so good!”

Jennifer’s story is one of triumph over grave circumstances. Born in Pontiac, Mich., she says, to an “alcoholic, schizophrenic” mother who “refused to take her medicine,” Jennifer, when she was small, thought it was all an adventure. “My mother believed the FBI was tapping the phone and that the newscasters on TV could see us.” On the mornings after her mother’s parties, Jennifer and her older sisters finished off the leftover drinks, getting drunk while their mother lay passed out in the bedroom.

Because of their mother’s alternating “good and bad days,” the children were shipped back and forth between their mother and various relatives. By the time Jennifer was 13, however, her mother’s illness became so severe that she insisted on sleeping with the children in the car. Her father and stepmother took the girls in; but when their marriage dissolved a year later, the children wound up with their grandparents in Los Angeles.

By this time Jennifer was smoking marijuana and drinking quite heavily. At 15 she moved in with a young man, but the relationship soon soured. “He slapped me so hard that I saw stars; then the violence progressed to where he would sock me with his closed fist.”

Extricating herself from this relationship, she was soon involved in another which led to a marriage in which drugs and alcohol were a constant. A few years later, two children in tow, Jennifer left her husband. Regret in her lowering voice, she adds, “Now I’m with two children, smoking crack, drinking, smoking weed, and trying to make it appear to the outside world that nothing is wrong.”

In 1991, in desperate straits, she called her husband who took the children in. Jennifer reflects: “I guess he saw that I was falling apart.” With the restraints now lifted, she says, “My cocaine use spiraled out of control. I did whatever I had to do to get drugs and alcohol. Eventually I came to know all of the addicts, so the drug dealers passed loads of cocaine on to me to sell for them.” Then the day came when “I sold to an undercover cop and was arrested.”

Released from jail six months later, Jennifer recalls, “I was scared to death. I was terrified that I would go to prison. One day I was on skid row drinking when I heard that a woman was pushed out of a window. I told the guy I was drinking with, ‘There’s got to be something better than this.’ He replied, ‘Why don’t you go to Safe Harbor?’ ”

Soon afterward, says Jennifer, “I pushed my little shopping cart down the street with my bottle of liquor in my hand and a (cocaine) pipe in my pocket. When I got to Safe Harbor, they took me upstairs where I passed out.”

Although she resisted at first, once she accepted Christ, Jennifer says, “I cooperated with the program. They told me, ‘You’re carrying around this burden of guilt from your disease of addiction. Don’t let Jesus Christ’s death be in vain! Use it!’ And I prayed, ‘Oh, my God! Forgive me! You’ve already died for my sins. I need to give this burden over to you.’ So I did! And today I pray every morning and every night. I give God all the glory! I could never have remained sober without him. Today I know that I have to have him in my life or it’ll all fall apart



by Sue Schumann Warner “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your

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A fable for today by Robert Docter –  Once upon a time in a land far away

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